Hand-Held Fireworks ( SENKO HANABI) Make Japanese Summer Nights SPARKLE!
By Avi Landau
I have said it before- In Japan summer means fireworks. I forgot to mention, however, that by fireworks ( hanabi), I was not only referring to the kind that are launched up into the sky.
If you pass through any Japanese residential neighborhood in late July or August at night, do not be surprised to spot a colored glow, not high up above, but low to the ground, often behind a wall or fence- in fact eminating out of someones garden. This will more often than not be accompanied ( or preceded) by the smell of smoke and the sound of excited young voices. If you have a chance to peek through the gate, or over the fence, you surely see some kids, usually under the supervision of barbecueing or beer drinking parents, playing with HAND-HELD fireworks ( senko-hanabi, literally- incence stick fireworks).
When these are lit, they sparkle brightly, eerily illuminating the wide-eyed excited faces of the kids playing with them. The smoke they give off, obscures parts of this scene, now here, now there, and then drifts off , carrying its acrid, gun-powdrery smell. The laughter, crackling, sparkling, and the sulphorous scent, all combine to make a distinctively atmospheric Japanese Summer`s night.
As magical and FLEETING as childhood itself.
You can by cheap packs of these hand-held fire-works ( also called Te Hanabi, hand -fireworks, or niwa-hanabi, garden fireworks) at ANY convenience store and most toy stores.